General Question

Jeruba's avatar

Have you ever heard of using keys for self-defense?

Asked by Jeruba (48711points) January 5th, 2019

“Walking home to Euclid Avenue in the evenings, I carried my house key wedged between two knuckles and pointed outward, in case I needed it to defend myself.”
—Michelle Obama, on growing up on Chicago’s South Side; in Becoming (2018), p. 72

I grew up in the suburbs of a major U.S. city and later lived in the city. I never heard of that trick until I read of it for the first time in this book.

Have you ever done this, carried your keys this way? Have you ever had to use it in self-defense? If so, did it work?

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39 Answers

RedDeerGuy1's avatar

Yes. It doesn’t work. Also you can wind your belt around your hand and punch with it. It does not work either.

janbb's avatar

Yes, I’ve done it. Never had to test it though.

ragingloli's avatar

I have a whole bunch of keys on a lanyard that I can employ like a flail.

canidmajor's avatar

I’ve heard of it forever, done it, never had to use it.

@RedDeerGuy1, when did you need to do this? By all accounts, (yours) you are a large man.

rebbel's avatar

Heard about it, done it, never had to use it.
What it did do though, was giving me a sense of (being in) control.

LadyMarissa's avatar

Back in the 60’s & 70’s that was the technique that most self defense instructors recommended for women trying to get home after dark. I think the ultimate destination was to gouge the keys into the assailant’s eyes or scraping them down a cheek. I did carry my car keys & house keys wedged between my fingers just in case I needed them. Fortunately for me, I NEVER had to test them to see IF it worked!!! In theory, it made sense; but as I said, I was blessed to not have to use it to know for sure!!!

Now days, I have a small, very sharp pocket knife that I keep on my house key ring & my car key ring. It folds up & I open it up & have it in my hand whenever I have to go out at night. I’m thinking that I’d have a chance to stab the creep in the eye; or at the least, I could cut his arm & fingers or maybe the nose if I missed the eyes. It’s not strong enough to stab somebody with; but, is sharp enough to leave some painful slices.

Scratching them with the keys should give some good DNA evidence as well as a noticeable wound!!!

In my opinion, the best way to maintain your safety is to be fully aware of your surroundings. When anyone approaches, look them in the eyes & study their facial features. That seems to unnerve many because it means that you can give a full description of them to the cops. When walking through a parking lot or down a sidewalk, I’m constantly looking around so I’m aware where any strangers are located. That tends to unnerve them as it tells them that you are aware of where they’re located & will make their attempt to snatch your purse more difficult because you’re anticipating what might happen. Supposedly, your self confidence helps to diminish their self confidence & they will choose a different victim for their own safety!!!

RedDeerGuy1's avatar

@canidmajor In grade school (3 – 9) I was bullied on my way home by a group of adult gang members regularly. They left me alone in grade 9 when I got taller. I had plenty of attempts to see what works and what doesn’t. I tried to copy “Casey Jones from (Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles)” I used my he-man shield and tennis rackets. They didn’t work. I tried different combinations of weapons and my fists worked better than weapons. I also copied Captain America with my garbage can lid. It didn’t work either. Skipping school was my usual solution. So I could be left alone.

chyna's avatar

Yes I’ve heard of it for years. Always did it when going to or from my car in parking garages. Never had to Jan anyone though.

SavoirFaire's avatar

Yes, I’ve heard of it. It’s an old trick. The way that Michelle Obama describes it (a single key between two knuckles) is much more effective than the way a lot of people do it (two or three keys sticking out like a claw), but still not as effective as a self-defense keychain actually designed for the task (whether it’s a spiked kubaton or one the popular cat-faced keychains). That said, self-defense keychains are not legal everywhere. And in any case, just carrying a weapon is no guarantee of safety.

As to your other questions, I’ve carried my keys defensively before (using the single key method), but not since I was a teenager. I also own a spiked kubaton, but I haven’t carried it on me in years. Neither my keys nor the spiked kubaton were ever used in an actual self-defense situation, and I’d rather rely on my actual hands at this point anyway. (I say “hands” rather than “fists” because a palm heel strike is way safer than a punch.)

kritiper's avatar

I’ve thought about it. If there’s anything I’ve learned from Jackie Chan movies, it’s that anything is a weapon.

Call_Me_Jay's avatar

I think of it as playing comic book hero – The Wolverine!!

Jeruba's avatar

Interesting. If I did this and somebody came at me, I think the first thing that would happen is that I would drop my keys.

If I were planning to make a habit of it, I’d use an old key from some forgotten door and not risk losing my housekeys. If I did get away from an attacker, I’d hate to wind up locked out.

Zaku's avatar

I’ve heard of it, but (unless you have a very large key, preferably on a heavy chain, and training in flail weapons), it’s unlikely to do more than confuse or dissuade a very uncommitted attacker. There are so many other better improvised weapons I can think of.

Dutchess_III's avatar

I walked that way. I assume it would be used to jab at his eyes. That was my plan, anyway. Thank fully never had to use it.

LadyMarissa's avatar

During the time I had the stalker harassing me, I kept a stun gun hangig on my front door so anytime that I needed to go outside, I could remove it from its hook & take it with me. The drawback of the stun gun is that you need to be able to shock them in the shoulder or thigh area. It might turn out to be unuseful; but, at least I’ll know I tried & just didn’t give in!!! A friend of mine who is a cop says you’d be surprised how resourceful a scared woman can become with any sort of weapon in her hand!!!

Call_Me_Jay's avatar

I think the first thing that would happen is that I would drop my keys.

I recommend taking a self-defense course. It’s life-changing.

I took Krav Maga lessons for a few years. Everybody starts as a clueless schlub. And everybody emerges as somebody who isn’t afraid to hit or be hit. It was co-ed and women got to practice (simulated) ball-kicking, eye-gouging, and throat-punching on someone twice their weight.

I evangelize martial arts to my friends with kids. Especially those with daughters.

augustlan's avatar

It’s one of the first self-defense ‘techniques’ I ever learned, along with how to throw a punch properly. The claw method was common knowledge where I grew up in (just outside Washington, DC), and I knew it by age 13 for sure. I walked that way sometimes, but never had to test it. Mostly, I use the ‘be aware of your surroundings, keep your head up, look confident, walk purposefully’ advice I also learned way back then.

Jeruba's avatar

Ever since the injury that led to my knee surgery decades ago, I can’t run. I’m physically no match for anyone over the age of ten (maybe less). So I’ve pretty much figured that if I can’t talk my way out of a situation, I’m probably a goner.

It would be helpful to know if attempting and failing to inflict an injury on an attacker would decrease one’s odds of coming out whole. For sure no bad guy is going to try an assault on someone he doesn’t think he can beat, so he’s already sized up his victim. He gets to pick you, but you don’t get to pick him.

KNOWITALL's avatar

Yep. Seems unweildy. Seems like it’d hurt my fingers in life or death gouging.

Patty_Melt's avatar

It does hurt fingers. I tried practicing and the key would slide, and cut into that stretch of skin between fingers.

I switched to carrying a stick type pen in my sleeve. I got very good at whipping my arm down straight, and catching the pen in my hand.
Seriously, really good. Better than movies. Never had to use it. Word got around I was dangerous as hell, and just a bit demented.

raum's avatar

I’ve done it. But never had to use it. Honestly don’t think it’d be that effective.

I’ve defended myself with a 3’ metal T-square though.

Did chyna use Jan as a verb? LOL

Unofficial_Member's avatar

Not only heard, I’ve been robbed by someone using a key between his finger in a dark alley. At first, with the dim light I thought he was holding a small knife but upon closer inspection it was actually a key with sharpened end. He threatened that he’ll my stab throat with it if I scream for help and I ended up give in to his demand. I don’t care about it anymore as I’m someone who can easily move on. What’s done is done. Lesson learned.

Kardamom's avatar

I have never had to use this technique, thank goodness, but it was mentioned to us in the 1980’s. I’ve known about it since then.

MrGrimm888's avatar

You’d be better off with a roll of quarters.
Mace. Mace is THE best thing for females. Spray in a figure 8, focusing on the eyes/nose, and then run screaming.

Dutchess_III's avatar

@Patty_Melt You only hold the smooth edges against the webbing, not the side that’s machined into a key.

Dutchess_III's avatar

No, I’ve never had to use it. That’s not to say I haven’t found myself in some terrifying (rape) situations, but I knew that if I started fighting it would be just that much worse. There is something about lust and rage that feed off of each other.
I was able to talk my way out both times.

Jeruba's avatar

@Unofficial_Member, what was the lesson learned?

Patty_Melt's avatar

It doesn’t matter which way the key is turned. If you use enough force to protect yourself, it slides, it hurts. I know from experience. Plus, car keys are no longer smooth on one side.
I hung out with a rough crowd.
Poking them would never slow them down.
Try stabbing a cantaloupe with a key. Then use a Big stick ink pen. The pen penetrates easier, and there are different ways you can hold the pen to use it. Also, putting your hair in a bun makes a perfect carry.

I stand by my tried and proven ways. I could use nearly everything in a standard junk drawer for self protection.

Patty_Melt's avatar

Bic, not big. Stupid illiterate dang phone!

Unofficial_Member's avatar

@Jeruba Not to go in to dark places ever again (thinking that what happen to others may not happen to me). Honestly, at that time it was 6 o’clock in the morning and I think a little adventure to my relative’s house (in another district) with early morning air would be pleasant. Darkish sky with the street lights still on look somewhat empowering for any lone individual seeking to embrace the wonder of solitude. Who knows that some hooligans have been waiting to ambush at such a time.

I also want to say that I regret not carrying any weapon with me but there were four guys blocking my path at that time and surely any weapon I have would be useless. I scream for help but people that live around there won’t come out of their house to help (and later I hear rumour that people around there feared that the hooligans will target them/their house if they help the victims). The police is nothing but a crap here.

Dutchess_III's avatar

So how did you get out of the situation @Unofficial_Member?

Unofficial_Member's avatar

With all my belongings taken, @Dutchess_III. Thankfully they’re not foolish enough to go after my life and such. All I have to endure is emotional trauma for less than one week. I always try to remind myself that money can be earned again.

Patty_Melt's avatar

@UM, your living conditions keep making me feel such pain for you.
I wish better for you.

Unofficial_Member's avatar

Thank you, @Patty_Melt. I appreciate your sympayhy. It’s regrettable that things like this can happen in life. However, it’s not all about bad things here. I have had my own share of happy times here, and they’re more abundant and profound than the bad ones.

Patty_Melt's avatar

I would like to see you share some of them. I am posting a question with that in mind. You will find it in social.

lemon_of_lemons's avatar

Have never heard. And what a silly thing! Keys which are seen can be stolen easier!

LadyMarissa's avatar

^ They aren’t readily seen. You place your keys in the palm of your hand with the base of one key resting in the webbing of the fingers. Your hand is by your side & the keys aren’t noticeable until you’re grabbed & your hand comes up as though you’re going to grab their arm in self defense. Then you gouge them in the eyes or scrape the sharper keys down their cheek. The element of surprise is in your favor. Yes, you do need to remember to keep clutching the keys in your fist or you could lose them. I’d rather lose my keys than possibly be raped!!!

Dutchess_III's avatar

Just scraping them on the cheek would really piss the guy off. It wouldn’t be a very good deterrent.

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